Sebastian Chesnut is a top party planner in NYC, making a trip home to visit his mother, sister, and young nieces for the first time in several years. He’s been hard at work, scrimping and saving what he could to help support his family back in Fir Falls, a small, quaint, upstate New York town now doing some brisk tourism. Since his biggest events were always over the holidays, Seb’s Christmases and New Year’s for the past ten years were spent at work. His skills and work ethic have been rewarded with a job offer in London—at a huge raise in salary—so he’s taking December off to hang out with his family—meeting his nieces properly–and break his good news before he departs in January. Having had so few ties, it’s easy for Seb to make this move—and the extra money will make his family more comfortable, even if he won’t be around to see it.
Seb’s thrown for a loop, however, when he arrives in Fir Falls and find his high school love has been integrated into his family. “Uncle Matty” was a flighty boy who broke Seb’s heart in his senior year—and Seb’s still tender over it. Matt, for his part, is now best friends with Stephanie, Seb’s older sister. Matt returned to Fir Falls after getting his art degree and makes collectible figurines Stephanie sells in their family store. He’s more than a vendor, though, having helped Stephanie weather her divorce, and caring for Seb’s nieces for years now. He even made a spare bedroom for them in his house so Stephanie can have an occasional wild night out. Seb is blown away by this news, and not in a good way. He feels a bit betrayed—and he’s upset that he still finds Matt so devastatingly attractive.
Matt senses Seb’s frustration and he steps aside in some areas to allow Seb to build a rapport with the girls. Conflict grows when Stephanie’s ex contacts her about having the girls over Christmas, as per their divorce agreement. Stephanie becomes more withdrawn at the prospect of not having the girls for the holidays and Matt’s equally upset. They have so many traditions as a cobbled-together family, and Matt fears he won’t be welcome if the girls are gone. As an only child, Matt’s often felt he was a spare part to his parents, who often left him with relatives while they traveled for the holidays.
Seb and Matt are definitely reconnecting, but Seb feels awful starting anything knowing he’ll be in a whole new country in a few weeks. Still, it’s hard to resist the man who so captivated him in high school. What starts as a fling gets serious quickly for both Matt and Seb. After reconnecting with his sister, mother, and Matt, and finally getting to know the nieces he’d only FaceTimed with before, Seb finds it hard to imagine being so far away in London. What was once a great opportunity now seems like a potentially huge mistake. And, what would the extra money be worth if he loses connection to everyone he loves in the bargain?
I liked the pacing of this story, which is told through both Matt’s and Seb’s points-of-view. Seb starts out cold and detached, which made sense considering his years away from home, but this extended vacation allows him to really see all that he’s missed. Seb’s quick visits home didn’t allow much quality time spent on his relationships. I enjoyed seeing Seb grow and develop as a character, even working on his little people skills with the nieces. Their sweetness brought a lot of lightness to the story. Matt has grown a lot from his ADHD teen years, and he’s in a position to be a steady partner to a good man—maybe Seb. Watching how hard Seb is trying to be a good son, brother, and uncle, Matt suspects helping Seb build his relationships might bring him back to Fir Falls more often. Naturally, as things get more interesting, they also get more complicated. Seb has to decide if he’s going for the money, or staying for the love. And, if he stays, if can he do anything to help Matt and Stephanie keep the girls over Christmas.
This is a sweet holiday story, with lots of Christmas touches. I liked how Seb uses his skills as an event planner to do some good for both his town and his family during his time at home. Watching him reconnect and enjoy the holiday festivities gave me a good feeling; Seb’s not a grinch, he’s just locked down his emotions out of necessity. Matt’s good at drawing Seb out of his shell, though, and they are soon past all the adolescent trauma. But there is still the matter of Seb’s new job. Seb handled this conflict well, and brought some Christmas magic into the story for himself, Matt, and his family. The end is decidedly happy and tender, with an epilogue that assures us everyone has found their proper places in this world.